Many people wonder how to cook and eat healthier foods that are fast and don’t cost a lot of money. Many of us often eat on the run and don’t think we have time to cook. Even if you understand health and nutrition, it can be hard to put what you know into practice in a time crunch.
Sometimes we use "quick fixes," which may become bad eating habits over time. Then we come up with reasons, or "myths" about why we cannot eat better. Maybe you believe some of the common "myths" listed below. You may be surprised how easy they are to change.
Eating nutritiously healthfully is costs a lot more.
Many people believe that it costs a lot more to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and the other components of a healthful diet other healthy foods.
Studies show that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts does cost about $1.50 more per day. That may seem like a lot. But when you look at the long-term benefits of a healthy diet, it is actually less costly. People who eat a healthy diet are less likely to develop many chronic health problems. This may lead to lower health-care costs. If the cost of healthy foods is a problem for you, try buying frozen fruits and vegetables, and look for sales on fish, lower-fat meats and poultry, and nuts.
Myth No. 2:
It is too hard to eat the recommended 5 to 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
Most Americans do not eat enough produce. But having a piece of fruit is not the only way to slip more produce into the diet. Add a couple of slices of tomato and a lettuce leaf to a tuna sandwich. Mix a cup of finely shredded carrots into a pot of spaghetti sauce. Be creative! There are lots of ways to work more fruits and vegetables into your meals.
Myth No. 3:
I do not have time to eat better.
You might have more time than you think. Look at how you spend your time each day. Cutting back on watching TV or on social media might give you the time needed to make healthier meals.
Look for ways to make meal prep quicker. There is nothing wrong with using bottled spaghetti sauce and other time-saving foods to make your "from-scratch" meals. Just remember that the more processed foods you use, the harder it is to control the fat and sodium in the foods you make. But using already-prepared supermarket products is not cheating. Just try to choose low-fat, lower-sodium products.
Myth No. 4:
My sweet tooth prevents me from having better eating habits.
Eating well does not mean you can’t eat sweets. It just means eating less of them. Accept that sugar—high in calories and low in nutrients—is going to be a part of your life.
Try not to eat mindlessly. Eating ice cream right out of the container is an example of mindless eating. Eat mindfully instead. Put a scoop in a bowl, sit down, and enjoy every bite. Tell yourself that you can have more the next day. You can have your cake and eat it, too.
Myth No. 5:
I like fast food too much to eat well.
Fast food does not have to be all-or-nothing. Giving into a burger craving a few times a year does not erase the progress you have made. Also, fast food does not have to mean bad-for-you food. All the major fast-food chains have lower-calorie, reduced-fat options.
Another way to fit fast food into your healthful lifestyle is to combine it with not-quite-so-fast food. Buy the burger or fried chicken. Do not order the French fries or coleslaw. Instead, go straight home, bake a potato in the microwave and eat some pre-cut vegetables. You will save fat, calories, and money.
Myth No. 6:
I often overeat, which does not go hand in hand with a good diet.
It is not a good idea to eat more than you are hungry for every time you sit down to a meal. But almost everyone has done this at least once. The trick is not to beat yourself up about it. Eating too much once in a while is not a crime. In fact, the more you forgive yourself for these slips, the easier it is to go back to your healthful eating habits the next day. Punishing yourself for how much or what you have eaten only makes you want to give up and give in. Instead of trying to be perfect and giving up when you cannot; try to be better. Even one binge a week less than before is going to improve your health. Over time, try to get the number of binges lower and lower.
Myth No. 7:
If I exercise, I'll be extra hungry, eat more, and gain weight.
People who exercise regularly often eat less than those who do not. Regular and moderate exercise may lower your appetite. Exercise can help relieve stress, too. Stress can lead to nibbling on more food and excess calories.
If you debunk a myth a month, you will be on a healthier track by the end of the year. You can do it!
Try these recipe tips for a healthier diet.
For Breakfast, Dessert, or a Snack
These healthy foods can be eaten for breakfast, snack, or as a topping to your favorite dessert:
- Spoon some sliced fresh or canned fruit over ice cream or frozen yogurt.
- Slice fresh apples, add cinnamon, a pinch of sugar, lemon juice and heat in microwave until apples are soft. Spoon over yogurt.
- Make fruit smoothies: At high speed, blend one cup buttermilk, a banana, a dash of sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Or make a thick berry shake by blending a cup of (low-fat or skim) milk with a cup of frozen strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.
Ideas for Meals
- Apple-pear dressing : Puree apples and pears in the blender (with a pinch of sugar) to make a dressing for pork or chicken.
- Pasta with tomato/corn sauce : Whisk 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and pepper. Add 1/2 cup canned or cooked corn kernels, one chopped scallion, and fresh chopped tomatoes. Mix in fresh or dried basil or oregano (if you like) and spoon over cooked pasta.
- Quick chicken/tarragon dinner : Mix Dijon mustard with tarragon and spread mixture over cleaned boneless chicken breasts. Place in pan, add white wine or chicken stock to cover bottom of pan, and cook in preheated 350-degree oven or toaster oven for 20 minutes, or until cooked through.
American Dietetic Association
International Food Information Council
Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition
Dietitians of Canada
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Last reviewed November 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 1/21/2020